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Books That Inspired Pussy Riot

60 Minutes featured Pussy Riot last night, the Russian punk band with three members sentenced to two years in prison for staging a protest performance against Vladimir Putin inside a Moscow cathedral. Check it out:

Since he’s been in power in Russia, Vladimir Putin has steadily cracked-down on democratic freedoms and the protesters who support them – a crackdown that intensified after his reelection as president a year ago. Nothing symbolizes this better than the arrest last March of a group of young feminists after they staged a protest against Putin in Moscow’s largest cathedral.

The news program also interviewed members of Pussy Riot currently in hiding. Below, we’ve rounded up the literature that inspired these dissident voices.

Maria AlyokhinaYekaterina Samutsevich and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova presented inspiring final statements in court on August 8th, speaking about the history of protest literature in Russia and sharing the writers who inspired them.

Using N + 1′s transcript of the statements, we have linked to their literary inspiration below…

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova wrote about the Russian absurdist poetry movement, Oberiu. These poets were also suppressed by the government in the mid-20th Century. You can read poems and history from the movement in the Facebook page for Oberiu: An Anthology of Russian Absurdism.

Tolokonnikova wrote:

Katya, Masha and I may be in prison, but I do not consider us defeated. Just as the dissidents were not defeated; although they disappeared into mental institutions and prisons, they pronounced their verdict upon the regime. The art of creating the image of an epoch does not know winners or losers. It was the same with the OBERIU poets, who remained artists until the end, inexplicable and incomprehensible … Pussy Riot are [Alexander Vvedensky]’s students and heirs. His principle of the bad rhyme is dear to us. He wrote, “Occasionally, I think of two different rhymes, a good one and a bad one, and I always choose the bad one because it is always the right one.”

Band member Maria Alyokhina cited the poet Joseph Brodsky in her final statement. Brodsky served time in a Russian labor camp and was exiled from the country in 1972. Follow this link to read some of his poems.

Alyokhina wrote:

I would like to point out that very similar methods were used during the trial of the poet [Joseph] Brodsky. His poems were defined as “so-called” poems; the witnesses for the prosecution hadn’t actually read them—just as a number of the witnesses in our case didn’t see the performance itself and only watched the clip online. Our apologies, it seems, are also being defined by the collective prosecuting body as “so-called” apologies. Even though this is offensive.

She concluded:

This freedom goes on living with every person who is not indifferent, who hears us in this country. With everyone who found shards of the trial in themselves, like in previous times they found them in Franz Kafka and Guy Debord. I believe that I have honesty and openness, I thirst for the truth; and these things will make all of us just a little bit more free. We will see this yet.

Follow this link to read a free eBook copy of Kafka’s The TrialClick here to explore the Guy Debord archive online.

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